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I read Beautiful Hands to my youngest students, 1st-3rd grade. The question “What will your beautiful hands do today?” is the theme of this short and inspiring book by Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten.

The story of this book is both sad and joyful. From a Bookology article by Nancy Bo Flood:

Beautiful Hands was done for Bret Baumgarten, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When we found out, it was at stage 4. It was heartbreaking. He and I both wanted to do a book for his children, Noah and Sofie. I found out every day he would hold his kids’ hands in his and ask them, “What will your beautiful hands do today?”

I wanted everyone whom Bret loved to be in this book. We arranged for his family and friends (mine too!) to make handprints as part of the illustrations in the book, so that they could participate and be a part of this narrative. Over 100 people’s handprints are in the rainbow at the end of the story. So many people loved Bret, we didn’t know where to put our grief. The book became a positive way to remember the message he wanted to impart most: love, creativity, compassion, and our connection with one another.

Kathryn Otoshi

With my youngest students, we practiced using acrylic paints.

1. You must put on a t-shirt to avoid stains on your clothes. (I provide old t-shirts.)

2. Mrs. Simon will squirt the paint. It comes out fast and can splatter.

3. We only have primary colors, so how do we make other colors?

4. Which illustration do you want to make?

5. You can only use hands, no paintbrushes. We used the paintbrushes to apply the paint to their hands.

Here are some samples of final works of art.

My Painting

by Carson

Sunflowers bloom.
My heart booms!

Clouds float in the air.
My hands show that I care. 

Carson is brand new to poetry writing. He gets very nervous about it, so we have to use some breathing techniques while I prompt him with sentence stems. We worked on making lists of rhyming words. He wrote “Clouds float in the air” with little prompting. And selected the word care from our list of rhyming words. All I said was, “Look at your hands in your painting. My hands…?”

“Show that I care!” shouted Carson. We celebrated with a high five and a glowing smile. When I typed it and let him tape it to his artwork, he was as proud as Vashti from Peter Reynold’s book, The Dot. ( If you don’t know about Vashti yet, you must go Google The Dot right now.)

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Who knows how to spell onomatopoeia?

This started an impromptu game of hang man. Poetry Friday is a staple of my classroom. This week, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s Poems are Teachers helped with my lesson. As I read the model poem by Kate Coombs “Garbage Truck”, the students listened for the onomatopoeia. I think we found 17 onomatopoetic words. (I secretly fell in love with the word onomatopoetic.)

Poetry Friday is usually a fun day, but Ben crumpled when he couldn’t identify the t-sound during hangman. He insisted it was an N. And Elizabeth was crying because she didn’t get a chocolate cupcake at recess. All that was left were vanilla ones. Alice chose to write behind a curtain in a cubby hole in the back of the room. Hiding helps her focus. So even though they all eventually recovered, my classroom is like everyone’s classroom, filled with complicated kids.

Once we got over the Can-you-spell-onomatopoeia hurdle, some poems were written. Joy is found in poetry.


Onomatopoeia you say,

the cars buzzing,

the chirping, 

the beeping

the boom,

the flock.

The warning

that I haven’t closed 

my fridge,

my alarm in 



Avalyn, 3rd grade
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Bernard the frog came to visit and rested in a nest while we wrote poems.

My Classroom

The singing of Sadie, “La La Laaaa!”
Mrs. Simon sneezing who knows how many times, “Achoo, achoo, achoo, achoo!”
The sounds of kids playing, “Ahh! Haha!”
The sound of a pen, “Ch, ch, ch”
Water and zen, “Slish, slosh”
Doors opening and slamming shut, “Badumph!”
And the sound of new poems being made, “Scribble scribble”
Nothing is more calming than sitting in a cubby and writing all my thoughts and dreams!

Adelyn, 4th grade
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Quote of the Day

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.

St. Basil, source 365 Days of Wonder

I literally yelled at the poor East Indian dude who answered my called to the credit card company. They shut down my credit card over 3 weeks ago due to fraud, and I still do not have a new card. I was livid. I bantered on about subscriptions being canceled so I couldn’t even watch TV. A bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.

He patiently checked on the status and calmly explained that I should wait a few more days. I’ve heard it all before. Then I asked, “Why could the Disney Plus charge go through and I don’t even have the secret number yet?”

He again very patiently explained that some companies allow them to change over the recurring charges. “You mean I don’t have to get on the phone and call all these companies?”

My voice was calmer. I was breathing a little better. I apologized for yelling at him and promised I would try to wait a few more days.

Then I went outside to water plants and ended up pulling weeds. I’ve always wanted to be a gardener. One who enjoyed digging and planting. I am hopeful it may be happening. I was amazed at how easily I calmed down when I dug in the cool brown dirt, watched doddle bugs emerge, and felt that satisfaction that I was doing something productive.

Then I called Mary. Mary is my good friend who is a master gardener. I told her about my butterfly garden. She said, “Come over! I have some plants for you.”

I went shopping for plants in Mary’s yard and came home with pots of native sunflowers, a blooming ground cover, and one other butterfly plant whose name I’ve already forgotten.

The digging, clearing a space for something new, finding new plants, a gift of friendship all soothed by worried soul. And I hadn’t even gotten to a glass of wine yet.

In my notebook this week I used the above quote to create a golden shovel.

“he who plants kindness gathers love.”

When he sees the first hummingbird at the hibiscus, he
gathers sugarwater for who
ever may visit; he plants
bee balm, hosta, zinnia, and kindness
attracting a single ruby-red who gathers
us to the window to love.

Margaret Simon, draft

Mary and I share photos of our orchids that are re-flowering.

There are still dates available for the Kidlit Progressive Poem in April. Don’t forget to sign up here.
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On Tuesday mornings, I have cafeteria duty. I hate cafeteria duty. You have to be a cop, making sure the kids follow the procedures and keep the talking to a minimum. “It’s time to eat, not talk. If you continue to talk, you will be asked to leave.” The kind of talk that’s not kind. I do try to greet the kids with a smile and good morning, but breakfast time has one goal. “Eat something.”

When P came in, he didn’t follow procedure. He came straight to me before going through the cafeteria line.

“Good morning,” I said. “I see you have a broken arm. What happened?”

P begins his monologue. A story he has practiced and told before. “I was on my skateboard, and I was trying to go up the two steps, but I hit the first step and fell.”

I express my sympathy, “That must’ve really hurt.”

“Yes, but… that’s not why I’m talking to you. I need help with my tray.”

I jump into action. “Of course, I’ll get your tray for you.” I went through the line, brought him his tray, opened his milk, and packaged, heated breakfast sandwich.

His smile and puppy dog eyes were thanks enough.

Later, I was walking down the hall to transfer to my next school. P’s kindergarten class was dutifully lined up to go to P.E. or library. He stepped out of the line when he saw me and whispered something I couldn’t understand.

I leaned over, put my arm around his good shoulder and leaned in. He whispered, “I love you.”

My heart melted. I actually had tears in my eyes as I wandered out to my car. I’m going to change my perspective on cafeteria duty.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

The neighborhood I live in used to be known as Paradise Woods. My husband tells me when he was a teenager, it was a popular spot for “parking”. When I walk, I cross over an empty lot to get to another street. Whose land is this? I often wonder. What was here before?

I’ve heard tales that this space was once a dairy farm. Cattle farming was common for early French settlers in southern Acadiana, where we live in Louisiana. Either the LaSalle family or the Daigles owned this property, likely using it as farm land. It’s all legend now. I love thinking about the history of this little walkway as it leads me under a beautiful cedar tree. Who walked this field 100 years ago? We’re all visitors for a short time. If the concrete could talk…

Where the sidewalk ends, photo by Margaret Simon

In the early morn
before the sun rises
before my work day begins,
before the houses wake,
I walk across this path
more sure-footed on solid concrete–
A path that leads to an old cedar tree,
planted by a farmer making shade
for his cattle. I speak to his ghost
and thank him for his hard work,
his dedication to the land,
and his kindness to those
who’ll pass here again

Margaret Simon, flash draft

Every week I invite you to write with me about an image. This post is also a Slice of Life post for this month’s daily challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you stop by, leave a small poem in the comments and return the favor of reading other poem offerings and writing encouraging words. This is a safe place to write. No judgement allowed. Consider following my blog to get this weekly prompt in your inbox.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Remember Alice? The sleep-deprived child from my Slice on Saturday? She wanted me to let all my readers know that she took my advice and read The Lightning Thief, our current class novel, before falling asleep rather than watching TV. If you’ve ever read The Lightning Thief, you may not think this is such a good book to read before going to sleep. Talk about wild crazy dreams filled with Minotaurs and such. But the book helped Alice fall asleep at a reasonable hour, so she was enthusiastically ready for class today. 

She also wanted me to share her Basquiat art piece. 

I asked my students for an idea for today’s Slice of Life, and they pointed to a painting I created years ago in a creativity class for my gifted certification. That class was one of my favorites. I loved my teacher and the projects we did. I went searching for the binder. More than any other class, this one taught me how to embrace my own creativity so that I could encourage it in my gifted students. This was a reminder I needed today.

I found the binder, my final project, in a cubby and hugged it close. I’m so glad I kept it. Looking through the binder was like looking into a time capsule. So many things I had forgotten. But my painting with my teaching philosophy remains on the wall of my classroom today. I still believe in it and try to live it everyday. 

In the painting, I analogized creativity with opening a door. In my classroom, I want to make the students feel safe as in a birdhouse that gives them the freedom to explore ideas, discover relationships, and ask questions. A cat symbolizes curiosity; the tree, exploring possibilities; and the planet, discovery. The purple mountains symbolize expanding the horizon, and the wildflowers, flexibility.

Margaret Simon, circa 1999
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A quick video of an egret in flight on Bayou Teche, Louisiana.

What do you do with a perfect day? The temperature was just right, 70 degrees. Not a cloud in the sky. Humidity low. Sunday is our day to catch up and get ready for the work week. We go to church and come home to our individual chores: cat litter, trash cans, lesson plans, laundry, grocery…and I had writing group. “You think we can squeeze in some paddle time?”

I decided that there were a few things I could put off like vacuuming, so I said a resounding, “Yes!” Perfect days are rare, so I feel we must embrace while we can. So we made a date for 4:00 PM. Jeff hosed out the canoe (ants), I grabbed the paddles, and off we went.

Heading directly into the sunset, the colors change. The old leaves on the oaks are a dark green while the new pollen fuzzies are a golden yellow. People complain about this popping of the pollen. It aggravates allergies and covers cars in a fine sprinkle of golden dust. All part of the healthy life cycle of a great live oak tree.

Pollen on the Grandmother Oak

Some, not all, of the cypress trees are showing new growth. These tiny needles are the brightest neons of green. The truest sign of spring.

cypress needles against blue sky

As we paddled home, Jeff noticed a plastic chair wedged in some tree roots across the bayou. He said, “I think that’s our lost chair.” A few storms ago, the water had risen and taken with it a plastic chair from our yard. Sure enough it was ours. Jeff managed to back the canoe next to it and grab it with his paddle. The chair was a little muddy but still in tact. I had to take a selfie to get a photo of it, so the angle and perspective are odd, but you get the idea.

Jeff rescued our long lost backyard chair.

We were home before the sun set and were treated to the appearance of a great white egret. Grace from God to praise this perfect day. Click on the video above to see this majestic bird in flight.

Great white egret
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If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have heard of the most famous artist in my life, Leo LeBlanc. He is only 4 years old, but as my dad (an artist himself) told me “If only Van Gogh’s mother had saved all his drawings.” So my daughter Maggie started a shared album on her phone. While he was living, my father took delight in seeing Leo’s art pop up on his phone. He often called me just to talk about it.

Last year, Leo was drawing, as he still does now, with a single marker, filling the page with a line design. Here is a sample of a piece from September 27, 2021 when he wasn’t quite 3 yet.

Now that Leo is four, he is able to speak what his imagination tells him he has drawn. Yesterday after his first soccer game of the season where he spent most of the time on the sidelines eating Goldfish, I took the opportunity to interview him as he was drawing. To me, his grandmother, this is priceless. You will hear his younger sister, Stella in the background. She is saying “I want to sit on you, Mamere.”

M: Hey, Leo LeBlanc, you just made a beautiful piece of art. Could you tell me about it?

L: It’s a boat carrying a parachute right here that carries a coconut.

M: Wow! So is the coconut attached to the boat or the parachute?

L: The parachute is connected to both.

M: To both of them? 

L: Like, connected to here, here, here, here, here, here… 

L: That’s all part of the parachute.

M: Okay. All right.So what is this?

L: The coconut.

M: And what is this right here?

L: The star on the web.

M: The star on the web?

L: I’m about to draw the web. I just showed the web because I’m going to draw it. I’m not building another coconut. It’s just how it lives like this.

M: What did you just draw? 

L: Zigzag.

M: That goes on the boat?

L:  Zigzag. A motor has to go. It’s tipping over because it’s a motor boat. Does this look like a motor?

M: It sure does.

L: The tip goes in the water, leans back, they pull the handle, and it goes in the water.They start moving on the steering wheel, and it goes. It tips over.

M: Yeah.Very nice.

L: And there’s a web right here. And the parachute has to go under the boat.This space has to go somewhere. I don’t know what’s coming. Okay, I’m not done. 

M: You’re not done? Okay.Thank you very much, Leo LeBlanc. 

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I teach gifted kids in grades 1-6 at two elementary schools in my district. We use a pull-out program, so I see my kids every day. Alice (not her real name) comes to me at the end of the school day, after second recess and before dismissal. Yesterday she was tired, and I could tell. Her eyes were half closed and she had very little patience for the suggestions I was making about her work.

Alice is very talented, not just in academics, but also in art. However, her perfectionism can get in the way. We were doing an art project in the form of Jean-Michel Basquiat. We watched a video from a Pace artist from the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Following the directions of the teaching artist resulted in a Baquiat-esque painting. Alice did not like what happened when she created her background. “I hate it,” she cried. And tears fell down her little cheeks.

I knew this melt down was not just about the art. She was tired. She had an idea in her head of what she wanted her art to look like, and it wasn’t happening. She’s a calm child. She didn’t tear up the paper. She didn’t cry loudly or need to take a break. I let her figure it out, and by the end of class, she had cut out one of her practice drawings and glued it to a solid background. And I think she left for the weekend somewhat pleased with how she had gathered the strength to at least have something to put in the hall display.

But before all this happened, we talked about her exhaustion. I know that gifted kids have a hard time shutting down their brains to sleep. I also know that research shows you should turn off all screens at least an hour before going to sleep.

Alice: “I’m just tired.”

Me: “Did you watch TV before you went to sleep?”

Alice: “Yes, I always do.”

Cringe on my face, “You know research says that TV stimulates your brain so you won’t get restful sleep if you use it to fall asleep.” I tried to sound logical and not degrading.

A: “I just can’t stop thinking! I need a Notes app for my brain!”

I couldn’t help but laugh! Then I explained to her how a notebook next to her bed could be her notes app for her brain.

She admitted that she would probably totally forget this conversation by the time she would be going to bed. I think we could all use a Notes app for our brains.

Basquiat-esque Art by Margaret Simon

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I love to go for a walk in the morning. Getting out of the house is my problem. First, I have coffee. Then I check email and these days, write a Slice and read some Slices. Comment. I get sucked in. Even with this problem of getting out of the door, once I’m out, I’m never sorry. Most days when I get back home, there’s a mad rush to get ready for school. Somewhere in this morning routine, I try to get in some writing. Sometimes the writing happens while I am walking. Notes app, microphone on.

My grandson Leo visited this past weekend. He is highly creative. He draws with amazing design, unlike most scribblings of a 4-year old. Last week we ran into my cousin Andrew, the architect, during Mardi Gras. I showed Andrew Leo’s drawings. My daughter started a shared album about a year ago, so I have them on my phone.

Andrew told me a story about his second grade teacher. He loved to build things, and his mother, my aunt, would throw out things like paper towel tubes, boxes, and magazines, etc.. But not Andrew’s teacher. She had a box of trash just for him. An Andrew box full of scraps to build with. He has never forgotten this and may be the artist he is today because of it.

Being Mamere I collected toilet paper tubes, gumballs, and a box. Early on Saturday morning (Leo woke up at 5:30 AM), I showed him the stuff. “You can make whatever you want.” I gave him a plastic container with glue and a paintbrush and left him alone. He created something. When his mother saw it, she noticed that he had even found a wad of cat hair to add to the top of one of the towers. I placed the sculpture in my new butterfly garden to hopefully attract insects and caterpillars.

Leo’s sculpture
Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tanita at {fiction, instead of lies} for Roundup.

For Poetry Friday, it is the first Friday, so the Inklings (my writing group) have a new challenge. And it came from me. I asked my friends to toy with the use of anaphora (repetition) in a poem using the mentor text from Jericho Brown, Crossing. I wrote one last week that I ended up putting in the trash, so I didn’t have anything to share. Remember the walk I took? I spoke a poem into my Notes app that is my poem offering today.

To see other Inklings poems:

Linda @A Word Edgewise
Heidi @my juicy little universe
Molly @Nix the Comfort Zone
Catherine @Reading to the Core
Mary Lee Hahn @Another Year of Reading